Gia Gardella - A Monroe-Woodbury Crusader, through and through MONROE. A celebration of life for Giavanna Gardella, who so loved playing softball, will be held Monday, June 10, at the Smith Clove softball field in Monroe. Bring your gloves.
Former Monroe resident Gia Gardella during her senior year at Dawson High School in Pearland, Texas, in 2018. A celebration of her life will be held Monday, June 10, at the Smith Clove softball field in Monroe.
Giavanna L. Gardella was born in Monroe on Nov. 30, 2000 to Craig and Andrea Gardella. Gia attend school in the Monroe-Woodbury School District from “Little Miracles, the pre-school at the high school, right through freshman year, and was on the junior varsity softball team and the track and field team at the high school. She was a Monroe-Woodbury Crusader, through and though. In the summer of 2015, she moved to Pearland Texas with her family, after her mother transferred from West Point Military Academy, where she was a registered nurse, to the VA Hospital in Houston, Texas, and her dad retired after 25 years with the New York Police Department. Gia started sophomore year at Dawson High School in Pearland, Texas, and made it onto the softball team as well, which was her number one goal. She finished the remaining three years at Dawson High School and graduated on June 1, 2018. She was accepted to Sam Houston State University in Texas, and was all set to be an incoming freshman with a criminal justice major. Diagnosis: Anaplastic Large Cell LymphomaWhat no one knew was at the same time Gia had a small lump in her right groin which she had seen by her pediatrician and was prescribed antibiotics for. The pain became so bad and spread to her lower back that she was hospitalized on June 15 at Texas Children’s Hospital. After about a week’s worth of blood and urine tests, X-rays, ultra sounds, EKG’s, sonograms, CAT scans and echo-cardiogram’s, Gia was diagnosed on June 21 with Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma. In layman’s terms, that is cancer of the lymph nodes. A biopsy was performed the next day; those test results showed that Gia was already at Stage IV with the cancer not only throughout her body but it was also in her bone marrow. Her oncologists, Dr. Jennifer Agrusa and Dr. Lauren Scherer, recommended an aggressive treatment plan which would last fie months and cause Gia to spend her summer as a inpatient in the hospital. When she did occasionally go home, it was for a few days to maybe a week at most, and then right back in the hospital for another round of chemotherapy. While at Texas Children’s and undergoing her treatment, Gia had some bad allergic reactions to different medicines and coded twice and almost died. She also had every side effect that you could possible get from the chemotherapy, but fought through it all and on Oct. 31, 2018, completed her treatment. She had another biopsy preformed on Nov. 6, 2018, to measure the amount of cancer in her body to see if they chemotherapy was over or so if another one or two rounds were needed. Black FridayOn Nov. 9, the results came back: Gia was told that her cancer was almost gone and that the five months of chemotherapy was a success. Outside some office visits and checkups for the next few months, Gia was on the road to remission. Then on Thanksgiving night Gia experienced some minor back pain but nothing too serious. The next day, Black Friday, it got worse and Gia spiked a fever as well. On Saturday she was told to come in to the cancer ER for a visit. She was admitted after a few hours of tests and exams which lead to another full week of lab work, X-rays, tests and worrying. Then on Dec. 7, Gia was told that her cancer had come back after only 19 days and was just as aggressive as the first time. So a new treatment plan was created by her doctors with a different chemotherapy drug(s). This was going to last until May 2019. Then, after the end of this plan, she would have another biopsy done to she how the new chemotherapy attacked her cancer. This would determine if she was good and ready for remission or if she would have to get a bone marrow transplant as a last resort. Fast forward to late February 2019: After only being on the new treatment plan for two of the six months, the doctors make the decision that Gia will need a bone marrow transplant and scheduled it for mid-March. Her brother, MateoNow, the new challenge was to find a donor match for the transplant. Her parents were tested and each were only a 50 percent match. Her four siblings (David, Samantha, Nicholas and Mateo) were also tested and, by a small miracle, Mateo was a 100 percent match, while the other kids were between 40 and 60 percent matches. For a successful bone marrow transplant, the doctors would like 80 percent or higher for the donor, so the patient has a better chance of success and survival. The bone marrow transplant took place on March 22, 2019, but was preceded by five days of intense chemotherapy and radiation in the hopes of bringing her bodies immune system down to nothing and to kill as many cancer cells in the body as possible. As first reports came back, Mateo’s bone marrow transplant was successful and there were no complications at all. Gia’s recovery time in the hospital was going to be four to six weeks and then about another two months at home. The fever returnsBut after only three weeks, her body was 99.3 percent grafted and accepting Mateo bone marrow. So Gia was released early and headed home to finish recouping. Then home for only two days, Gia got another fever and had to return to Texas Children’s ET for an exam. It was the doctors’ decision to admit Gia for a day or two until the fever subsided. After only about a day and a half on the bone marrow floor of the hospital, Gia was transferred to the Oncology ICU for better “one-on-one” care. She started to get a little better after a few days and was almost transferred back to either a oncology or bone marrow floor. But then her body started to fail and her liver gave out. Which caused her kidneys to work harder. The ICU countered this and gave her medicines to help rebuild her liver and then hooked her up to dialysis to give her kidneys a break. One of Gia’s lungs then partially collapsed and her heart had to work harder during all of this to kept her alive. After some more ups and downs that week, her parents were told that, medically, it looked like Gia wasn’t going to make it through the week. Ironically, they were also told that day that the latest bone marrow test showed that Gia was now 100 percent fully grafted to Mateo’s bone marrow and the transplant was a success. But it looks like that the radiation she received prior to her transplant damaged her liver and kidneys beyond repair and her body just wasn’t strong enough to overcome that. 12 credits Four days later, on Saturday, May 11, surrounded by her parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, close friends, some softball teammates and her doctors that have been with her through this fight since day one, she passed away and heaven got another angel that day. While at Texas Children’s Hospital undergoing her treatment, Gia met and got close to one of her nurses who was a patient at Texas Children’s 11 years prior with leukemia. After 13 months she beat it and become a nurse and now worked on the same floor that she was a patient on. That inspired Gia so much that she changed her major at Sam Houston State from criminal justice to nursing. And, she said, she was going to be “the second nurse at TCH to be a former patient there.” Gia had to re-register from an incoming freshman to an online student since she was hospitalized and couldn’t attend classes on campus. So from her laptop and hospital bed she took two classes in the fall of 2018 and two classes in the spring of 2019. She passed them all and had 12 credits going into what would of been her freshman year in college. This story is told by Craig Gardella, Gia’s dad.